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Staying Home Instead

Family Vacations

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18, No. 5 September-October 2001 pp. 182-184

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.


My husband works long hours and we're really looking forward to our vacation this summer. Since we're a one-income family, we'll be renting a small apartment at the beach (no fancy resorts for us!). Because our children (ages five, two, and six months) don't see much of their father, they're not really used to having him around. He's not used to our daily routine, and he isn't that good at playing with them without structure. The children also tend to fight a lot when they're together too much—particularly in strange places. What can we do to help make our vacation a real holiday instead of a continual struggle to get along?


In preparation for your vacation, I would suggest you sit down with your husband and discuss each other's expectations for the trip, how each of you would like to spend your time, and whether there are any particular things that you would like to accomplish. Just knowing each person's hopes for the vacation before you leave will help to reduce the tensions and frustrations of misunderstood desires and the resulting disappointments. This "family meeting" will also serve to give your trip a little structure and organization. I find that my children, ages four and two, fight more when they are bored and sense tension between me and my husband. Your husband may appreciate both time to relax and some "stretch time" alone with the children. Perhaps your husband could spend mornings alone on the beach with the newspaper unwinding from his busy work life. Then in the afternoons you could pack up the older children's necessities, give your husband a few suggestions, and send the three of them out for a few hours. I expect that, with a little guidance, when left on his own with the children he will find his relationship with them developing naturally, especially in an environment without the pressures and distractions of daily life.

Deirdre Van Amberg
Erlangen Germany


I think it is great that you are assessing the situation ahead of time because being proactive sets everyone up for success. If you plan a few diversions that are easy to, pack, quick to pull out, and don't create a lot of mess, you can use them during times of chaos. Or, better yet, plan on using them before the situation becomes a problem. I have a few ideas to share.

I like to bring play clay because it appeals to children or many ages. If you add some toothpicks, a cookie cutter, and some dull knives, your children will have some tools that make it even more fun. If you use it outdoors there's less to clean up!

Put a cup or two of rice in a pan to play with. I like using a 9 x 13 baking pan, but you could use a shallow cardboard box. If you have some small toys, they may like to make small roads through the rice. Items from the kitchen such as funnels and measuring cups are great, too. The best part is that no matter how much rice ends up on the counter or the floor, it's easy to clean up.

I use two-piece plastic eggs all year long. My children always like finding eggs that are hidden in the house or outside. You can fill the eggs with anything (small toys or stickers, goldfish crackers, mini-marshmallows, small candies, raisins). On vacation, you could hide them in a hotel room, campsite, or cabin. You can also do this more than once in a day!

Shaving cream is so much fun to play with in the shower or bath.

It might be helpful for you to share these ideas ahead of time with your husband. It might inspire some ideas from him for some new, fun activities and help him feel successful at playing with his children.

Joan Keltgen-Lo
Puyallup WA USA


I usually find our away-from-home vacations stressful no matter how I plan in advance. It seems to me as if someone usually winds up sick. I always seem to forget to pack a few essential items, such as a beloved teddy bear. Then there are car snacks, securing the house and pets, loading up the car, and just getting there! The children feel that stress too. They often don't sleep well in an unfamiliar place, and the busy schedule of sightseeing is often too much. My suggestion is to take your vacation at home. You don't have to pack or unpack and it's a lot less expensive. This would be a great opportunity for your husband to become aware or your normal routine. He'd have the chance to play with the children on their own turf where they aren't battling each other for attention. You might even get some time for yourself That's what vacations are all about!

Nikki Julien
Tumwater WA USA


Try planning a loose schedule/routine for each day. Make it as close as possible to the routine you already have in place. Write it down and talk it over with your husband before you go. Plan some things to do as a family, and also plan some things for your husband to do one-on-one with each of the children. Include some things for your husband to do with both older children. Even over planning is often a good idea. If you have lots of things to choose from, you wont get stuck not knowing what to do. You don't even have to do any of the things you plan, if it turns out you are all having fun just hanging out together and digging in the sand. But it will give you peace of mind knowing that you have many activities to fall back on.

Also, try making up a bunch of "tickets" (little rectangles of colored construction paper with smiley face or something drawn on them). Present them to the two older children as rewards throughout your trip. Give them each a special container to put their tickets in. At the end of each day, let them redeem their tickets for a special activity; for example, a "pony" ride on Daddy's back, an extra bedtime story, or a "sing-along" under the stars. If they want to, they can save some tickets for something special at the end of the vacation, like a trip to an ice cream parlor, or maybe a petting zoo. Make up a list of activities before you go, and decide (with Daddy) how many tickets it will take for each activity. Let the children in on it right before you leave, and don't give them their containers until you get set up at your destination. You can start giving tickets right away for riding quietly in the car and reading books or playing with a toy.

Kelly Stinson
Ponder TX USA


A beach vacation is the stuff of dreams in my family. When I was growing up, we regularly went to the beach for a week. This tradition lasted for almost 15 years! We had a somewhat larger crowd, anywhere from 15 to 22 people, from grandparents to infants.

To help things go smoothly, I'd suggest that you agree on a game plan with your husband. What is the goal of the vacation? Do you agree to stop an activity as soon as the children show signs of needing something to eat or to take a nap? If your husband likes to keep his schedule even on vacation he may be willing to take a child for an early walk to get fresh bagels or doughnuts for breakfast. Ask your husband to take some specific responsibilities for the week such as preparing two dinners, making breakfast, finding the cheapest place to play mini-golf, or whatever he wants to be responsible for. This will help you enjoy your vacation as well. Let him know what your expectations are.

Keep handy a list of games that can be played on the beach and another list of indoor activities. Any thing you can play in the snow can be adapted to the beach. Don't forget Frisbees and kites. Beaches don't have power lines! We have Steven Caney's Play Booka s well as other books with family activities. Your local librarian can help you find some books to fit your need. In the early morning hours, the beach tends to be empty. We always enjoyed talking to people out fishing in the morning, and we saw baby sharks and other creatures we would have missed otherwise. One of our favorite toys as children was a glow stick tied to six or eight feet of string. Once it was dark, we would throw our sticks into the waves and haul them back out. The sticks can be kept for the next evening if you keep them in the freezer (it slows the reaction and they will still be glowing a bit the next day). We avoided the movies unless the weather was bad. Look around the town! A local church where we went had basketball courts on the parking lot and we often saw pickup games. A beach vacation doesn't have to be expensive or routine. If you like your chosen beach, consider inviting grandparents or other family in for next year. We only had one activity that everyone needed to participate in during our week at the beach: a dinner out. Other than that, we all just did each activity with whomever wanted to go. If we missed meals, we got something to eat for ourselves, since the mothers were on vacation too.

Barbara Gifford
Bedford OH USA


Your question brings back memories. My family has spent a week at a small, lakeside, family-owned hotel every year since our first child was born. The years when the children were small and into everything were tough, and my husband was far too accustomed to his adult working life to be of much help. But more than anything, those vacations taught me to enjoy family and let go of agendas and expectations. A few suggestions:

Give your husband some opportunities to relax on his own, with a book or an activity he enjoys. He is not used to being around children all day and he'll be happier if he doesn't overdose on family togetherness.

Prepare your husband for the likelihood that everyone will not be happy all the time, that children squabble and babies cry on vacation at least as much as they do at home.

It's tempting to bring lots of stuff along for the children to do but managing "stuff' takes a lot of mother's energy. Bring a few tried-and-true playthings, the ones that encourage children to use their imagination. Paper and markers, small cars, balls, and new sand toys (odd plastic containers rummaged from the kitchen cabinets on the night before we left) were our standbys.

Our best times were spent in unstructured activities that, repeated day after day, vacation after vacation, became family rituals. You'll have to discover what these things are.

Finding rocks and throwing them in the water can keep children and adults occupied for amazingly long periods of time. We discovered that playing football in the shallow water at the beach evens out the playing field for even the smallest family members.

Keep your expectations realistic. Away from home and the usual routine, young children will look to mother for security. You can't change your husband's relationship with your children in just a week, especially not in strange surroundings. But you can find ways to enjoy being together. When the vacation is over, keep talking about all the fun you had together, so that your husband and children can build a closer relationship on this foundation by sharing memories.

And when you yourself get a moment of peace, however fleeting, don't forget to just sit there and enjoy it. You deserve a vacation, too!

Gwen Gotsch
Oak Park IL USA

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